Edit Button | Buttercup of Doom ep 47


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The edit button… that magical thing many claim I am missing. But am I? And is that a bad thing? Are you missing it? Should we practice using it more often? Editing your words between your brain and your mouth… Also, in the 101Kiddie Pool: editing and the completion monster. A nice short episode for that traffic jam. Enjoy!

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This Week’s Rating: R (language) buttercup ratings system info here

Writer’s Groups, Pre-Readers and Mommy

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.
It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body.It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
~ Winston Churchill

Blame Mandy DeGeit for this. No really, feel free to go over to her blog and blame her. Loudly. And if you’re a new writer, thank her while you’re there. Tossing her under the bus for the greater good is hard to do, but reality gives this a better punch—and she can take it.

While the hard lessons of the publishing world were crashing down around her, exploding her blog and facebook and twitter accounts with the likes of Neil Gaiman and Ramsey Campbell, she was sitting on my couch learning. She was learning those little things that never seem to be written down in any book on writing.

One of her lessons, and today’s tidbit, was editing. Because of the edits done to her, because she then wanted to put it up for sale and I thought maybe we should look at it first, and because there were too many errors when I did look (at something she had submitted), we had a little chit-chat about what I tend to refer to as “mommy likes it.” Because what she had submitted did need editing. It didn’t need publisher level editing, it needed author level. It was submitted and accepted as such, but it shouldn’t have been submitted in that state.

“Mommy likes it” refers to the rule guideline no one will tell you. GET PRE-READERS. And your mother doesn’t count, unless she’s an English professor or writer herself. She’s your mother. She’s supposed to like you. Supposed to support you. Supposed to pat your head and tell you everything you do is golden. Guess what? It’s not. And if you don’t believe me, ask MY mother—the meanest critic on the planet (I’ve actually been trying to convince her to join goodreads, but I think she’d just make every author cry rather than just me). So who do you get? The reason this is a guideline rather than a rule is because of the fine details—it’s up to you to decide the final tally and logic to each of them, and it’s up to you and your needs how and who you pick. I’ll use my own past and current situation as an example.

Once upon a time I was a pre-reader for several well-known authors. I got the position after harshly reviewing all of them for several years (in retrospect, I wonder if it was to keep my opinions to pre-press). I was their nazi* pre-reader. I fine-toothed their manuscripts. I pointed out storyline issues, consistency problems, POV, tense,  grammar, punctuation, spelling, anything I could find. I beat up Brian Keene for years regarding his abuse of the semi-colon and I had the balls to tell very tall and very scary duo Wrath James White and James Moore, as well as the quiet but deadly JF Gonzalez, when something sucked. I was mean, but it was all in the name of making their words the best they could be, and done with a smile.  And THAT is the key to a good pre-reader.

Where I was once the nazi for others, I now have my own in Dave Thomas (dt not meteornotes, to clarify, because there are too many Dave’s in my life!) But I have other pre-readers, and this is where the guideline of what you need and how many you need comes into play.

1. The above mentioned “nazi.”

2. “The reader” who tells me straight fan opinion and let’s me know when I write over his head—e.g. “I didn’t know this word” means change it so I don’t lose or offend any readers.

3. “The fan” who has read everything I’ve ever written, right down to grocery lists, and can give me not only an opinion on where the current story rates, but will understand the little jumps around my universe with characters and nods that I tend to do and find things if I screw up.

4. “The writer” another writer will see things no reader ever will. And more importantly, editing me will help them edit themselves. I learned that while I was doing it, and I gladly pass it forward. It’s invaluable… unfortunately, this will always be the one that gets fired and sent off into the world to concentrate on their own work.

Those are mine. You may want more, less, or for different reasons, but I find this combination works really well. And I would be lost without them, which is why they are always in the acknowledgements. I may create the world and write the words, but they tell me when it’s bad, ugly, stupid or otherwise requires attention.

And they make sure what I submit is ready to be submitted.

Which is the point of this blog. When we write we become what we’re writing. There are non-writing spouses that will tell you horror stories of living with the characters rather than the writer. I can’t say they’d be wrong. We become so immersed in what we’re doing, we can get too close to it. Close enough to not see our own mistakes. Close enough not to be able to judge it right out the gate as ready or not for the world. Get pre-readers.

At one point during the lesson she asked about writers’ groups as a form of pre-readers. While some people join them, enjoy them, and find what they need from them, I have never had that kind of success with them. I won’t exactly go into any kind of argument against you joining them, but I would implore you to maybe use both a group and a set of pre-readers and look at the difference in the feedback. Then decide what you think of them and whether or not they are helpful to you.

Now then, call your mother and tell her you love her but she’s fired. Then look at those around you and pick the ones you feel have the ability to be completely honest with you even if it hurts (and brace yourself for emails that start “I love you but…” when they send back their edits). Pick your pre-readers, send them something, and get back to writing.

Me? It’s Memorial Day, it’s 85 degrees, and the pool in the yard is flirting with me from across the driveway in ways that would totally get me to go home with it if it were a boy in a bar. You… go write. Me… going to muse in the water so I can write later.

*nazi — please take no offense at this, none is meant. I use that word all the time as a generalization for strict dictatorship. My own boss calls me the Office Nazi =)


summer-vacation-photo-contest_slideshow_imageFriday we hit the road for Wisconsin… again. This time, we’re coming back in a quieter vehicle. This time, we’re leaving the kids behind for summer. It will suck, so I’ll make the best of it and force the time to go quickly.

Yes, I said that.

And my younger self, the 12-year-old that lives just under the surface, is crying a little bit. Summer vacation used to mean the beach and sun, BBQs and picnics, relaxing and giggling and making memories. It meant wishing it would drag on forever and school would never start again.

But I have work to do.

I have a short story due next week that I still need to fix. I have an article due in July that I need to pull from an old blog and make pretty. I have another story due in August that I haven’t even started beyond musing and the first paragraph. I have a novel that needs to be finished before the kids get back in August. And when/if there’s downtime or I need a break, there’s a Big Mac vampire novel to be written. It’s crunch time. I’ll be going back to twice a week blogs and spending a ton of energy beating the muse until she’s bruised and bloody and begging for me to go to the beach, just so I’ll leave her alone for a day.

But right now I’m taking a smoke break and daydreaming of summer vacations past—because I’m a memory lane whore.

I remember fishing and swimming, snorkeling and tubing, and sitting in the canoe just floating with a book at the cabin. Fireworks on the water—both Lake Superior and at the cabin. Moonlight on the big lake, with a boy or a beer, or both. Laying around doing absolutely nothing other than communing with Ra. Bomb pops and ice cream cones. Reading books in the big loft doorway of the garage. Movies and sleepovers. Hanging out with my boyfriend, or the girls, or the gang, as the day dictated. Babysitting and climbing trees. Upgrading from the 10-speed to mom’s car. Train tracks in the rain. Jumping from the lighthouse. Four-wheeling in the pit and flashlight tag in the graveyard. Fires on the beach and parties at the point. Long quiet walks in the woods and picking rocks along the shoreline at sunset.

And writing in my notebooks.

Because even back in high school, when I saw summer vacation as a lazy-fest of do-nothing-and-like-it, I was writing. Poems, short stories, strange passages that would lay dormant until remembered, and occasionally used, years later. Even then I had words to spew, blood to spill. I never traveled without my smokes, my shades, and a pencil in my back pocket.

Some things never change…

Medium Rare

happymealRemember when Happy Meal’s® came in a box? Yeah, this blog has nothing to do with that, or Happy Meals, or even McDonald’s. Just the Big Mac.

Or rather, what the Big Mac signifies.

The Big Mac is the best (while your mileage may vary™  just play along) of the junk food available. I think we can agree that it’s basically the polar opposite of a Filet Mignon. And thus we enter metaphorland!

You see, a certain Hippie I know what going off on a rant when I got home yesterday, regarding the industry and it’s love of everything written horribly. A friend of ours was told to “dummy down” a manuscript because, while it was great, it wouldn’t sell like this. Between that and an article he read, he went on and on about bad paranormal romance doing better than well written fiction, fifth grade reading level writing, talentless schmucks getting book deals, etc. He spoke of selling out to the buyers and tossing art to the side.

I was crushed.

I asked, “Do you write for the story or the money, and don’t lie because I know the answer.” He didn’t lie. He said story, “But what good is the story if it’s never sold to be read?”

Oh yes, this spun us off into a whole rant/debate thing. A part of me giggled. Ahhh the good old days—when we were just friends arguing over industry and other nonsense at cons and such. It was playful banter. It was venting frustrations. It was… it was anything but a serious argument.

Then it turned serious.

Not in that we were actually arguing. Oddly, we don’t do that, or at least haven’t yet. This turned serious in that it wasn’t playful. The glint in his eye became an angry monkey that threatened to throttle the muse and force it to kick out crap just to get published.

Yeah, you read that right. “Just to get published.” Which of course, turned into me having a fit about not giving your stuff away, not self-publishing, and asking how purposely writing crap wasn’t just as bad as those two evils.

If you follow my twitter, you may have seen me post what he said next,. “It’s the difference between Big Macs and Filet Mignon… but the ones writing Big Macs can afford the filet, on an island somewhere.” I tried to come back with something snappy—how you want to be remembered for art and craft and all that silliness. (See, now you know I was hot, because I actually used the word “craft”). His response, also on twitter, was low… because it was true, “We’ve been to Poe’s house… have you seen Dan Brown’s?”

Of course, as our house is not just a family but a tribe, and several of the natives were watching the festivities, I turned to them with hope. One is in 8th grade, the other in 11th. “What was the last book you read?” First they answered with books they had to read for school. “No, no… the last book you read for fun.” I was met with blank stares. Then they finally piped up with titles and the following clarifiers which broke my soul. “In 5th grade.” “In 8th grade.”

Does anyone read anymore?!! My mother does. I’m betting most people reading this blog do. But what happened to the reading public? Not only have they been drastically reduced to the minority over the years, but they’re accepting crappy Big Macs instead of requesting, nay demanding, Filet mignon.

I will not sell out. I will not sell out. I will not sell out. I will not give my stuff away, because my mentors told me not to. I will not self-publish, because my mentors told me not to. And I will not write Big Macs.

I like my Filet mignon. Medium rare please.

So tell me, oh loyal audience of mine. What were the last 3 books you read? Genre only? Nonfiction? Do you read the paper? What do you read and how do you like it served—with a side of fries, or garlic mashed potatoes?

Sure, a beach book has it’s place and time, but all the time? Replacing the fireplace cuddle books? No, I just can’t accept that! And this debate is far from over… throughout the rest of the night it came up, at random, with venom, and is sure to be fueled by a dueling blog and more banter today. So help me, kind audience. Help me help the Hippie remember. Listen to the mentors. Do as they say, not as they do. Don’t give your stuff away. Don’t self-publish. And for the love of all things holy, don’t write garbage on purpose! Write good fiction… and if the editor is willing to pay you money to “dummy it down,” deal with it then.

Down with Big Mac writing! Long live beautiful meat™!

Crushing Dreams

My muse has this weird new drug she’s on and it caused my mind to move in strange ways. She’s also infected my dreams and given me some new fodder to chew on, but it’s the waking hours that she’s worming into more and more. On occasion lately, I find it amazing that I can carry on an entire conversation without some fleeting thought or full paragraph just dropping into my head. I like it! I’ve actually debated getting stock in pixie stix, which is Wonka, which is Nestle, which is only $34.50 right now…

The monkeys were gone this weekend and I had a lot of time to think. I played with the muse, talked to friends, read, edited, played scrabble and did nothing for a while… and thought. I thought a lot actually. Various storylines, childhood memories [because of that damn 25 list], and just life in general.  We all have the ability to be glass half-empty when we’re down, some have more of a propensity for it than others, and some of us refuse. No matter which you are, try this on… it’s fun.  Think of where you are right now—in life, in love, in career, in everything—and then think back to when you were young. How many things didn’t you expect?

I knew I’d be a writer. Deep down I always had hope with just a smear of faith. But I never expected to meet my favorite author, let alone become a friend. I never expected to meet a lot of the people I’ve met, or travel in the circles I do, or go the places I’ve gone. I never thought my Christmas card list or address book would include people that I absolutely cherish but only see a few times a year. I never expected to get a degree just to ditch it. I never expected to have children that were taller than me [although I really should have seen that one coming] or who could make me smile with the silliest of things. I never expected to be starting life over at 40. And this weekend I did a little mental inventory of all the things I never expected, but am damn glad to have… the things I cherish.

And then wondered why I didn’t expect them.

Seriously, am I alone? Or do we as humans just not expect to get what we want? Even with a glass half-full, do we expect fate and destiny and the gods of dreams to laugh as they crush us? Why? I think things pile up and wear down at our hope, our faith, our fire. Because of a train, I buried six friends one day in high school. As an adult, I watched my daughter’s friend wither away under the power of an unstoppable cancer. And numerous times over the years, I’ve held friends while they cried over lost babies. None of these would ever grow up, find love, have a family, grow old—let alone achieve career goals or dreams. Their hopes were futile, some before they even had them. I’ve loved and lost… and lost… and lost. It makes a heart grow weary. It crushes the memory of a dream that the little girl used to have: the perfect romance, that silver-screen kiss. But it didn’t crush the dream, the dream had already been worn down by everything else. Because our dreams are all connected somewhere deep in our hearts, and it doesn’t matter if it’s love or career or hobby that is crushed, it tarnishes everything else. It plants seeds of pessimism. It makes you believe that it doesn’t really exist, thus protecting you from disappointment. It removes expectations.

I never expected a lot of things that I have right now. And after a weekend of reflection and looking through photos and recalling memories and treasuring those surprises, I realize that dreams never die. They just sleep. No one can crush them but you. “Dare to dream” isn’t about giving your best, it’s about not losing that faith, that fire. It’s about remembering all those things that little girl with the slingshot wanted and hoped for, but resigned not to expect. It’s about willing life to work in your favor, making lemonade, and being unafraid of the seeds.

What do you have that you didn’t expect? What don’t you have that you never expect to get or find? Cherish the first, reach for the second. It’s there. Hiding behind the tarnish of life, waiting to be remembered, discovered and dreamed of once again.

I made a promise to a gravestone on a cold September day in 1986, it’s time to remember that promise…

The real world…

Because the perfect world doesn’t exist. Oh, we talk about it all the time, usually starting the conversation [or at least the sentence] with “in a perfect world…”  Why? Why do we bother? We know we don’t live in a perfect world. But, if we did live in a perfect world, I would have gotten something done yesterday. I would have written and edited Nate’s mss, and felt productive.  What did I do instead? Oh well, I played the “this is how a writer gets nothing done” game.

Wake up, get coffee, get comfy, open laptop.

Enter children. Close laptop. Yes we’ll play magic today—later. No we’re not buying a lizard. Yes clean your rooms. No you cannot have chocolate ice cream for breakfast. This is where I start wondering why must they always ask me all the silly questions. Me, with the laptop open and the notebook and pen at the ready and serious look on the face? While their dad sits on the couch, sucking coffee, chain smoking, surfing channels, doing nothing. Oh yeah, they hate me. I always forget that.

Children leave, reopen laptop, email comes in. I MUST check the email, because I have a bazillion submissions out there and a few people i’m waiting to hear back from, and I have a weakness. I am completely incapable of ignoring email. Email is not any of those people. Email is JFB. “Coffee’s on. Come.” Ok, so I’ll go have a cup of coffee with her and find out what’s going on that’s got her out bed so early, not a problem. Because we’re friends, and that’s what friends do. When they sense something may be wrong, they drop what they’re doing and go.  I’ll just finish this email to my brother…

“Your phone is ringing.”  Crap, JFB was serious about “come.”

Close laptop, sprint to kitchen, grab cell phone from purse. It’s stopped ringing. Look at screen, that’s not JFB. Hmmm but this person doesn’t call often and considering the last email it might be important. Call back. Get machine. Hang up and debate calling back because they may have been on the phone talking to my machine. Phone rings. Answer phone to crazy person screaming and spewing and ok… so I need to have some long distance coffee for a moment. Sit down, talk on phone.

Get off phone. Grab smokes, turn to door, house phone rings. JFB is going to kill me through the phone wires this time, I just know it. Caller ID shows mom’s house. Ok, that last email was to my brother and I don’t know if he’s at his place or mom’s place, so maybe it’s him.  Answer phone while heading back to laptop because I’ll need to reference stuff for the brother. Instread, it’s mom. Ruh-roh.

“Are you calling to yell at me?”

“Nope.”  Whew. Ok, talk to mom. Find out about dad’s hospital visit, discuss tattoo, comment about blog, check in on life, kids, work, family, reserve a night at the bed & breakfast for Context plane, and other random, rambly, normal mom & me phone call type stuff. Then get lectured for not writing and working on The Neighborhood [because she knows all about that one and wants it finished and sold and published]. I wait for the irony to sink in, it doesn’t. Email comes in. Check it. Laugh. Share it with mom.

Do you need directions??

Exit house through back door-immediately take a left
Follow sidewalk past red vehicle-enter alley-Take a left
Follow said alley for roughly 6 seconds-take a right
Follow smell of coffee-enter house.

Really, it’s not hard

JFB would really like me to come have a cup of coffee now. Mom says go, hangs up. Grab smokes, close laptop, head to JFB’s [check how many seconds it really takes in the alley because JFB likes to make up numbers and I’m curious to see how close she gets]. Talk JFB off ceiling, offer smokes instead of oxygen and get her breathing back to a normal pattern. Discuss all the other things that have happened today to prevent me from working. Get yelled at for not working because she doesn’t care about The Neighborhood and would really just like me to get done with that and start working on Pickets.

Go home. Make lunch/dinner for family. [It’s Sunday, football is on, this means it’s Packer Soup day. Translation: packer soup, sliced cheese/sausage and crackers, and sandwiches as they want, need or otherwise throughout the day.] Do laundry. Clean up shredded paper towel that puppy thought was a good time. Fill coffee cup. Open laptop. Phone rings. Caller ID tells me this time it is my brother. Close laptop, talk to bro. Cover many subjects and talk to both brothers, as one is in the background screaming responses to the other’s half of the conversation. Enter kids. But mom! Ok fine, we’ll go look at the lizards.

Hang up with bro, pack family into car, go look at lizards… Or not, because the pet shop is closed. Console boy child, promise to go tomorrow, go home.

Unplug phone. Make more coffee. Open laptop.

“Mom, you said you’d play.”

Close laptop. Play several games of Magic with kids. Stop playing, more laundry, homework, smile and nod at hubby and pretend to be absorbing even a single word, showers all around, bedtime.


Open laptop. Work for twenty minutes. Muse replaced by guilt monkey. Close laptop, pull out Nate’s mss and orange pen. Get coffee, get smokes, get cozy. Plan to edit until it’s done—after all, I don’t have to work the next day.

Wake up face down in mss.

The next time someone asks if I’ve gotten any work done and I reply with, “No, life got in the way,” and they get that confused look on their face… I think I’ll refer them to this entry.

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